A story I have yet to see in the Anglo-American press is the apotheosis of Hugo Chávez. The Venezuelan strongman died on 5 March 2013 after fifteen years in office leaving Venezuela with 25 per cent inflation, public debt at 70 percent of GDP, a shortage of basic consumer goods, a crumbling electrical grid with frequent power outages, widespread crime and a serious contraction of the oil industry — the source of 95 per cent of the country’s exports. Since 1998 U.S. imports of Venezuelan crude have fallen by half.
The press has so far focused on the economy, foreign affairs and the political campaign to elect a new president. The better stories have been asking whether Chavismo can survive without Chávez — if Marxism can survive without Marx, Leninism without Lenin, and Peronism without Peron then Chavismo may be able to survive without Chávez. His handpicked successor, Nicolás Maduro, who has the backing of the army, the poor and the country’s petrodollars may retain power. Or will Chavismo go the way of Stalinism, Maoism or Hitlerism?
The regime appears to be taking as few chances as possible — and just in time for Good Friday — ViVe, the cultural TV channel owned by the Venezuelan government has broadcast a children’s animated short film showing Hugo Chávez in heaven.
The film shows the ten people Chávez meets as he enters paradise: Indian leader Gaicauipuro, Nicaraguan revolutionary Augusto César Sandino, Chile’s Salvador Allende, Venezuela’s negro primero Pedro Camejo; Argentina’s Evita Peron, the “people’s singer” Ali Primera, Che Guevara, Chavez’s grandmother Rosa Ines, Ezequiel Zamora, and Simón Bolívar.
The title of this film: “Hasta siempre, Comandante”, has meaning beyond a farewell to El Comandante (Chávez’s popular name with the masses.) It was also the headline of the article in Granma, the Cuban Communist Party newspaper, announcing Chávez’s death — and (coincidentally?) is the title of a leftist ballad celebrating the life of Che Guevara. Here is a link to a version ascribed to Joan Baez, whose closing stanzas proclaim:
Your revolutionary love
leads you to a new undertaking
where they are awaiting the firmness
of your liberating arm
We will carry on
as we did along with you
and with Fidel we say to you:
Until Always, Commandante!